This blog is dedicated to my Aunt in BC. You know who you are. Everyone should be so lucky as to have a faithful reader.
My Boss is finally back to work, while still not fully recovered she is gamefully doing her best to work at the library full time. Of course this means I'm home more and I know what's going on. Which in turn means I can blog.
Most Canadians know that cold nights and warm days in the Springtime means that the sap is running in the trees. It also means some of us will not be able to help ourselves and will collect this sap, boil it down a bit and make maple syrup. We would fall into that category.
Over March Break he started tapping but this weather is hard on tractors and roads - look at all the ruts!
It does however appear that our woods road is being selectively widened. Just for the record I walked, but when you've got lots of tools, buckets and paraphenalia to carry you opt for the tractor.
Last Fall Danny decided he wanted to clear a bit of land in our woods for pasture so he's been working at it slowly:
Being a scotchy kind of guy he decided that he's going to wait to cut down the maples that are on the piece of land he's clearing. He's going to tap them first. He tells me this means they'll dry out faster and be ready for the furnace sooner but I think he just can't help himself.
Using a drill he makes a hole (or 2) in the tree and puts in a spile or a tap for the sap to run out of and into a container. Sometimes he just uses plastic tubing. Did I tell you he was scotchy?
As you can see we'll collect the sap in just about anything
Every day or so it needs to checked; no point in letting the buckets overfill and spill the precious sap onto the ground. If this night is really cold and the day really warm it can run quite hard. Unfortunately we've been having some really warm weather lately so it hasn't always run very hard. With a cold snap forecast for tonight I'm more optimistic about tomorrow's collection.
Eben's collecting the sap to bring it home here. The 5 gallon water jugs are easier to carry than some of our other buckets so he patiently pours it in. From here it goes home but not before I appreciate some of the wood that's been cut to burn in the woodstove and furnace next winter. It helps me feel warm.
The tractor slowly heads home, widening the road a little more but the sap can be heavy so I guess I understand.
At this point it becomes my job to boil the sap down. It takes more than 40 gallons of sap to make 1 gallon of syrup. If we had proper equipment we'd have an evaporater: a shallow container with a lot of surface area to help the steam boil off quicker. With 5 gallons of sap we don't warrant an evaporater:
Out comes my collection of preserving pots and I make Hannah fill up the woodbox again. All the sap is strained to get out any bark or moss or whatever out and I fire the stove up. Everytime it looks like the fire is dying down I fill the stove back up again. Since the stove is in the kitchen and I'm usually working in here I get quite warm. Many Springs this would be a fine thing: even on warm days, above freezing, it would still be cool but not this year. I get quite hot and look for chores in other parts of the house that still require me to pop back into the kitchen every 45 minutes or so.
As the sap boils down I consolidate it in fewer and smaller pans. Finally I'm left with one small pot with some sweet brown syrup in it. I have to be really careful at this point that it doesn't boil down too far and crystalize or turn into sugar. Maple sugar is great but it's not what I'm trying to make. 5 gallons of sap become less than a cup and a half of syrup:
It took 2 days to make but it's going to taste great on pancakes next Sunday!
We'll do this several times but we'll probably only get a litre or so of syrup in all. Oh well- we'll also be a little more self sufficient and that has it's own charm.
Although I can't help wondering if maybe Hannah isn't making a wiser use of her time.
I'll try to blog again soon - the kids and lambs have started arriving! But in the meantime be kind to eash other.